Yesterday brought the first clematis blossoms in my gardens. Call them elegant, extravagant, graceful, old-fashioned … what ever … but don’t turn your back on growing clematis. They cascade upward when given support, or at ground level when that is the only support available. The vines will gently intertwine through perennial shrubs such as rhododendron or along fences. A clematis cascading over a stone wall offers a perfect New England contrast – soft, gentle flowers vining freely along an inflexible, sturdy structure of stone.
My clematis collection, at four, is relatively small. The oldest of these, Nelly Moser and Blue Moon, adorn the corners of the front porch where the vines can climb toward the sun, yet the roots can remain cool in dappled shade. Vines of Blue Moon are somewhat more vigorous and last year housed a tiny finch nest. When in full bloom, the vines, support, and even the bird’s nest completely disappeared behind a mass of color. I carefully prune dead portions from both of these varieties throughout the growing season and in early spring after new growth appears.
My other vining beauty is Sweet Autumn Clematis – shown here at the end of last summer. I originally purchased two with the intent of having them grow on supports on either side of my front porch, but both succumbed to winter vole and/or chipmunk chomping. The one shown here volunteered to rise in a random near by location. It rewarded a quick transplant and some TLC, and now promises to grow taller, stronger, and to cover itself with even more flowers by August. This and other late blooming clematis such as the C. viticella group can be cut back severely in late winter or early spring as they produce new flower-producing growth from their base each season. Still, I only cut vines back to where new growth is evident, unless the vines have grown to an unruly level and need some serious reshaping.
If pruning clematis sends you into a tizzy, consult a good pruning manual such as The American Horticultural Society’s Pruning and Training by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce. Now is a great time to plant clematis in New England gardens. Visit a trusted local nursery for hints of the colors and types available, but don’t pass by your chance to enjoy at least one of these graceful vines.